The girl in the toga girilis

Stephen Hero 23.182: “The paper also contained some verses: The Female Fellow: (a swallow-flight of song) which were signed "Toga Girilis".

The newspaper referred to in Stephen Hero is St. Stephen’s: A Record of University Life (1901-6), edited by some of Joyce’s fellow students at UCD. Under the heading “Girl Graduates’ Chat” (on p. 115 of its May 1902 issue) appears the following paragraph which was apparently written by Mary Olivia Kennedy, sister of the later Chief Justice of the Irish Free State, Hugh Kennedy:

The classes for B.A. this year in Loreto College are very large, and include seven candidates for Modern Literature distinctions, and several for History and Political Economy. We are pleased to see that a very promising Loreta, Miss Eily Hore, has assumed the toga girilis – And it suits her. Her brilliant verses, "short swallow flights of song", have many a time and oft lightened the heavy hour of study, and brought joy to the student-heart.1

No issue of St. Stephen’s, however, contains the verses mentioned both here and in Stephen Hero, nor any verses signed “Toga Girilis”. The allusion is to the toga virilis, the “manly gown” which young Roman men assumed when they turned eighteen and approached manhood. The author of the “Girl Graduates’ Chat” clearly regards the twenty-two-year-old Eily as having come of age: she received her B.A. several months later.

The next page of this issue of St. Stephen’s contained Joyce’s essay about the poet Mangan, and so one would assume that he kept it.2 However, it seems to have been mislaid in the confusion of his flight to the Continent with Nora, as it does not form part of his Trieste library. This might explain why Joyce mistakenly thought that “Her brilliant verses, ‘short swallow flights of song,’3 [which] have many a time and oft lightened the heavy hour of study, and brought joy to the student-heart” referred to poems actually printed in St. Stephen’s. It is of course equally possible that Joyce willingly fictionalised facts and events around the publication of the unnamed St. Stephen's first issue.

Arthur Cleary, Whelan in Stephen Hero, a fellow student of Joyce’s and one of the editors of the paper, later recalled:4

The ladies' column, alleged to be, but not always in fact, the composition of a girl graduate, was a point of much difficulty. Lady students always cavilled at it as being too frivolous.

Arthur E. Cleary, Dublin Essays (1920), p. 57

Joyce would have known Eily Hore as they both studied Italian for their B.A. under Father Charles Ghezzi. She got a second class degree for her B.A., with Joyce achieving only a pass degree. We will never know if it was due to his familiarity or just the attractive bog Latin word formation that Joyce included the word in a list of phrases for the Oxen of the Sun episode, and more important, that he made use of it in Finnegans Wake:

She may be a mere marcella, this midget madgetcy, Misthress of Arths. It is not a hear or say of some anomorous letter, signed Toga Girilis, (teasy dear). We have a cop of her fist right against our nosibos. FW 112.28-31

The “Misthress of Arths” and “signed Toga Girilis” seem more than coincidental.

In 1905, she was awarded a first-class degree for her M.A in Modern Literature, gaining the second-best result in all Ireland.5 In spite of her academic qualifications, she seems subsequently to have published very little. In 1902, she wrote an article for the Christmas issue of the Loreto Magazine called “An Old Bookshelf”, in which she praises the pleasures of browsing through old magazines with unfamiliar names like Colburn’s, The Broadway, The St. James’s, Dark Blue or Belle Assemblée. In 1906, she had an article in the Wexford-based magazine Ireland’s Own, called “30 Days in Ireland” that described a travelogue by the French author Firmin Roz published in 1905 under the title Sous la couronne d'Angleterre.

Biographical information about Eily Hore is sparse:

Eleanor (also Eileen, Eily) Alice Hore, the daughter of James and Eleanor Scallan Hore, was born in Co. Waterford on 13 October 1879.

Newspaper reports and listings show her receiving a Preparatory Grade English prize of £2 in 1893, while at Loreto Convent, Wexford;6 she was still at the Wexford Convent the following year as a Middle Grade prize-winner (again £2), gaining Honours in English, French, German, Italian, Music and Domestic Economy, with a Pass in Arithmetic,7 and again in 1895, gaining Honours in Latin, English, French, German, Italian, Music, Domestic Economy and, this time, in Arithmetic. By 1897 her studies moved her to the Loreto Convent at Balbriggan, County Dublin, where she passed her Intermediate Grade examination in the pianoforte. In 1898 she matriculated at the Royal University of Ireland from Loreto College in Stephen’s Green, Dublin,8 where she passed her first-year examination in 1900.9

The 1901 Census shows her as a boarding student at Loreto College, 53 Stephen’s Green East. She passed her Second University examination in the Second Class, while attached to Loreto College in Dublin,10 where in 1902 she was awarded a Second Class degree in Modern Literature.11

She remained at the Royal University to study for her MA, passing with First Class Honours in Modern Literature in 1905.12

In 1911 the Ireland census finds her living with her widowed father at 5 George’s Street Upper, Wexford (listing her “occupation” as Master of Arts, Royal University of Dublin). She maintained her interest in the arts in Wexford, being elected to the Borough Council’s Library Committee in 1927 and again in 1928.13

Eily died a spinster on 6 August 1932 at the County Hospital, Wexford, leaving personal property, both “in England and the Irish Free State” to the value of £4,795.14 She was interred in Crosstown Cemetery.

Harald Beck

My thanks are due to John Smurthwaite, who first drew my attention to the May 1902 issue of St. Stephen’s as the source of toga girilis, to Vivien Igoe for researching the traces Miss Hore left in the Loreto Magazine and to Shea Tomkins of Ireland’s Own for providing scans of Hore’s article.


1 This is not the first issue of the periodical, though Stephen Hero suggests that it is. See “Mary Olivia, I knew first when from Loreto College she was beginning to write, tartly and smartly, a Girl Graduates’ page in St Stephen’s […]” in Constantin P. Curran's Under the Receding Wave (Dublin and London: 1970, p. 118).

2 Joyce presented his paper to the UCD Literary and Historical Society on 1 February 1902.

3 Although the metaphor “Swallow-flights of song” can be documented earlier, it only became prominent after Tennyson’s In Memoriam (section XLVIII):

Nor dare she trust a larger lay, / But rather loosens from the lip / Short swallow-flights of song, that dip / Their wings in tears, and skim away.

4 Cleary also contributed to the paper under his confirmation name of “Chanel”.

5 Intermountain Catholic (Salt Lake City, Utah), 2 December p. 2.

6 Dublin Daily Express (1893), 18 September, p. 6.

7 Irish Independent (1894), 10 September; Wexford People (1894), 22 September; Wexford People (1895), 14 September.

8 Dublin Daily Nation (1898), 29 July.

9 Dublin Daily Nation (1900), 26 July.

10 Irish News (1901) 27 July.

11 Irish News (1902), 1 November.

12 Freeman’s Journal (1905), 28 October.

13 New Ross Standard (1927), 8 July, (1928) 3 August.

14 Irish Times (1932), 20 December, p. 11.

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